Lust Caution
(色 戒)

Lust Caution (色 戒)
Made in: China, Taiwan
Language: Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese), Japanese, English
Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Tang Wei, Joan Chen, Lee Hom Wang
Year: 2007

Based on the short story by Eileen Chang

Synopsis: During the Japanese Occupation of Shanghai in World War II, a small group of idealistic students led by Kuang Yu Min (Lee-Hom Wang) secretly join the resistance movement.

They plot to assassinate a man named Yee (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), a high-ranking collaborator with the Japanese government who's vital to the operations of the occupying forces.

Enter the protagonist, Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei) one of Kuang's fellow students. While performing in a play alongside Kuang, she discovers her own acting talent and soon becomes drawn to Kuang's passion.

Agreeing to help carry out the assassination plot, she poses as the aristocratic trophy wife of a businessman and manages to befriend Yee's wife (played by Joan Chen).

Meeting up with Mrs. Yee and other rich ladies for regular shopping sprees and games of Ma-Jong, Wong Chia Chi soon learns that Mr. and Mrs. Yee aren't exactly hot and heavy for each other. Not only that, it becomes apparent that Mr. Yee has eyes for the our beautiful protagonist.

Exploiting this turn of events, Kuang and his group persuade Wong to carry on an affair with Yee, hoping he'll let his guard down at just the right moment so they can smoke him once and for all.

Lust Caution begins as a simple plot, but gradually turns into a minefield of emotional entanglements that jeopardize multiple lives.

Remarks: With a straightforward and intriguing story, Lust Caution is mostly about the emotional/psychological journeys of Yee and Wong. Director Ang Lee does an exemplary job of exploring the many facets of love: romance, trust, jealousy, obsession, and (everyone's favorite) lust.

Watching this foreign film, you get a realistic sense of the complexity of human emotion. Yee is an extremely cautious, meticulous, and intelligent individual, yet these are the very same qualities that motivate him to have his heated and reckless trysts with Wong.

And while Wong is only pretending to be in love in order to bait Yee, she's well aware and constantly fearful of what might happen if her cover's blown. Yet in the midst of this affair, she wields most of the emotional control over the villain.

Okay, if I go any further this article will cross over from review to the realm of criticism, which will essentially spoil the movie. Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and solid all throughout, Lust Caution is another Ang Lee masterpiece.

While watching the NC-17 rated version, I was afraid that the explicit sex scenes would render this foreign film a "porn disguised as art" sort of deal, but am happy to report that said sex scenes don't overshadow the intended effects of the story.

And although I could have done with fewer bare-butt shots of the acclaimed Tony Leung Chiu Wai, he once again proves why he's one of Asia's top actors with his range and intensity.

Who would like this movie: This Golden Globe-nominated foreign film's for you if you're an Ang Lee fan, and if you have an interest in China's history during World War II. And of course, you'll also like this movie if you already have an affinity for foreign cinema.

With a slow, methodical pace, Lust Caution is emotionally intense and very well constructed.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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